It’s A Small World

Image courtesy of Beyond Design

I LOVE getting that e-mail that says, “Congratulations on your Etsy sale,” and it’s especially fun when that order is being shipped to another country.

I didn’t used to feel that way, though.

When I first opened up my shop on Etsy the whole shipping thing really made me nervous.  It was overwhelming at first, I remember well.  So, to make my life easier, I decided to only list domestic shipping rates.

Then I started reading seller tips about how important it is to offer international shipping.  I didn’t think about it much until I heard it mentioned that if I don’t have international shipping listed on my items, they don’t show up in searches by customers in other countries.  I haven’t verified whether that’s actually true or not, but it got me thinking…if my stuff is only being found by folks in the U.S., then I’m missing out on a HUGE group of potential customers.

But figuring out international shipping seemd even more intimidating than figuring out domestic shipping….where do I even start???

I started in the Etsy Seller Handbook.  They’ve got all sorts of great articles ranging from general shipping information to specifics on handling international shipping, and pretty much everything in between. While I was rummaging around there, I found this shipping rates chart on USPS.com which was a big help for deciding how much to list for shipping rates.

I did my homework, bought a digital postage scale (Amazon.com has good deals), tweaked my rates and policies, and opened my shop up to the world.

Wanna know the really neat thing?

Once I added international shipping to my items, I started getting international orders pretty regularly!  I’ve sort of started a little game…I’m trying to see how many countries I can “collect” orders from.  I told my kids I want a huge wall map of the world for Mother’s Day so I can hang it up and put a pin in all the countries that I’ve shipped to.  Not sure if they’ll come through with that one…we’ll see!  (I’m also “collecting” states in the U.S., but I’ll need a different map for that :-)).

If you’re not already offering international shipping, I really encourage you to go for it!  It does mean doing a little homework, taking the time to read the articles in the Etsy seller handbook, looking up the links they suggest, but I promise… it’ll be well worth the effort to open up your potential customer base.

There are a lot of shoppers out there in the world, and it really isn’t such a big place after all!

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Courtesy of Revel Delve

Wanna know the one thing I dread the most about being an Etsy shop owner?

Taking pictures of my items!

Really.

Words I can deal with.  Coming up with good tags, writing descriptions…I can do that.  Taking a good picture…that’s a skill I still struggle with.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come a long way.  At the risk of embarrassing myself, here’s one of my first item photos:

Bad…just bad, in so many ways!

 And here’s one of my more recent and favorite ones:

Sooo much better!

I’ve tried so many techniques…you’d laugh if you could see me trying to get set up for a shoot!  Like the times when I really want to take advantage of the natural light outside…I will never forget the time that I set up the frame for my picnic canopy in my driveway (no shade to block the light there), pinned my backdrop cloth to the upper supports, duct taped the fabric to the corner support poles (because the wind was making my background flap), weighted down the cardboard I was using as a surface on my little camp table (so that wouldn’t fly away, either), snapped a million pictures, and STILL had to do major editing when all was said and done, only to decided I really wasn’t thrilled with the outcome.  Uggh!

Anyway, the truth is, good pictures really DO make a difference in sales.  That mustache wallet has been my #1 best-selling item.

I’m still trying to find what works best for me, but everything I learn or try out comes from tips I’ve found on-line.

Handmadeology has a number of articles on photography tips.  Do a little searching around, and you’re sure to find some great ones, like how to make and use a light box, tips of photographing clothing, or how to take studio-quality photos right in your own home!  (Disclaimer…I’ve tried all of these tips with varying degrees of success.  Never quite as nice as the article suggests, but I’m thinking that’s mostly due to the fact that I am a lazy photographer and try to do things as quickly and easily as possible…guess I need to work on that!).

Good photo editing software is important, too.  Most photographers will tell you the BEST product out there is Photoshop, but, if you’re like me (and most of the people I know), that particular piece of software is well outside of my current photography budget!  Here are some free programs that I’ve worked with:

Picnik:  This on-line service is my all time favorites for ease of use and available tools, BUT, I’m so sad….they are closing down their site in a month!  😦

PicMonkey:  Brand-spankin’-new site, developed by some former Picnik designers.  While it doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles (yet?), what it does offer is nearly identical to Picnik’s basic features, so it was an immediate favorite in my book.

FotoFuze:  Another on-line site that offers the convenience of pulling existing photos directly from your Etsy shop to work with.  It’s great if you’re trying to achieve that white or pale background look.

Gimp:  This is a free downloadable program that is supposed to be a decent (and did I mention FREE) substitute for Photoshop.  If you know your way around Photoshop, this program should be a breeze for you to master.  For the rest of us, the site offers tutorials and users guides.

Picasa:  This is another free downloadable program offered by Google.  It’s got all the basic editing features and connects with your Google account to easily upload your photos to the web.

First of all, let me just say, I’m not getting paid to promote any of these products.  Second of all, I can’t really recommend one over another because each one has different features about it that make it great.  My advice…play with all of them and choose the one you’re happiest with.

Oh, and if you already have a photo editing product that you absolutely love, will you share it?  I’m still looking for the perfect fit!  (Is there even such a thing?)

It All Starts With a Dream

Courtesy of Fired Up Ladies

Thanks to all of you who commented on yesterday’s post.  You sharing your blessings brought a smile to my face and heart all day!

I was reading a great blog post yesterday, put out by Tim of Etsypreneur, about attitudes of success.  One of the points he made was that it’s really helpful to be able to visualize your goals….in other words, daydream a bit.

That got me thinking about what my dreams for HMDDesigns are.

Hmm….what are my dreams?

When I first started, back in the autumn of 2010, this was my goal:

To have enough product to fill my half of a craft table at two holiday craft fairs.

Not surprisingly, that goal was not to hard to meet.  Not only did I accomplish that goal, but I also ended up doing several hundred dollars worth of special orders for friends looking for Christmas presents.

My next goal was this:

Figuring out how to set up shop on Etsy and seeing if ANYONE would find me or even WANT to buy my stuff.

Then my goal was:

Oops!  How did that get in there!????

I mean this:

I’ve met these goals, too…umm, but not the square dancing super star…that was just a phase (but it made for really fun date nights!).

And my current goals are…

Well, I’m still working on those, I guess.  I’d love to hit the 500 Etsy-sales mark by the end of this year, 2012.  I’d love to get my items into some local boutiques (I’m already renting booth space at The Merchant Company in Portland).  And I’m experimenting with offering home parties…check out the cool invitation post card I made up for my hostesses to send out to their guests:

I feel like my 2012 goals aren’t as specific as they should be, but like I said…still working on that!

Take a minute and daydream…and then maybe share with us….what are some of your goal/dreams?  ‘Cause that’s where it all starts, right?

With a dream…

Addicted to Stats

Hi, my name is Malaika, and I’m a stats-a-holic.

Give me a shout out if you know what I’m talking about…that nagging feeling that your page views might have gone up by 1 in the past 30 seconds…really ought to check…really should start cooking dinner…one more peek at the stats page won’t hurt…just a quick peek…glued to the computer screen while hungry offspring rummage through the cupboards…

O.K., in reality, I never got that bad, but boy oh boy…I’ll admit, some days I’m really close!

Not that there’s anything wrong with stats and being aware of what your numbers are.  In fact, it’s just plain good business sense to keep an eye on them.  But, before I share some of my favorite stats collectors, I must warn you…

DON’T LET THEM TAKE OVER YOUR LIFE!

There, now you’re warned.  Let’s move on.

If you’ve got an Etsy shop, then you already know about your “shop stats” page.  I love checking this…my favorite part is seeing what keywords people used that brought them to my shop or item.  This is a great help in seeing which of your tags are actually doing their job…and which ones aren’t.  (I used to use the tag “recycled” in any of my items that were made from used clothing but noticed that I almost never see that word bringing folks in, so, if I need the extra space for a better tag, I just drop “recycled” completely and don’t lose any sleep over it).

The Etsy stats page is full of great info which I won’t go into the meaning of today, because my purpose is to share some other stats collecting spots with you.

Etsy didn’t start offering the shop stats page until mid summer of 2011.  Before that, I gathered my numbers from other sites.  I still like to check these other resources from time to time, because, coupled with the Etsy stats, I find that I get a more complete “big picture”…and some of them are just really cool to look at, like this one:

This stats site is called Craftopolis, and what I love about this site is how it collects my information from my Etsy shop and my Google Analytics (which collects other information from my Etsy shop), and puts it all together in this great visual.  And you know how much we creative types love visuals!

Of course, in order for Craftopolis to work properly, you’ve got to have a Google Analytics account set up and running.  This site collects TONS of information and puts it all together in a bunch of different charts, graphs, and lists.  If you like pie charts and line graphs, you’ll love this site!  Personally, it’s a little more detailed and technical than I have found need for yet, but it is very comprehensive.  It even tells you all the different parts of the world your site has received hits from.

Cool, huh!?

Teaching you how to set up each of these apps for your shop would take a little more time than I’ve got in this post, but let me encourage you, if you’re interested, give it a try, because, hey, if I can figure it you, then I’m pretty sure you can, too.  (Wanna know a little secret?  I didn’t figure this stuff out on my own…I learned it from another blog…good stuff).

Or maybe you’d better leave well enough alone…especially if you have one of those addictive personalities.  Hmmm, maybe I ought to put a disclaimer here about “use at your own risk.”

But seriously, if you’re looking for information, it’s out there, and there are lots of other great number tabulating sites just waiting for you to ask them to help you count your beans!  Have fun, learn lots, and don’t forget to feed the kids!

How’s Your Team Spirit?

Courtesy of SheenaEsque

I’m not big into sports, but I do love my teams…Etsy Maine Team, CAST, Etsy Success, Handmadeology, just to name a few.

O.K., it’s not the same as a sports team, but Etsy teams really are great.  Why?  Two words…support, and community.

When I first joined Etsy I had no idea what I was doing.  Sure, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to sign up for a shop, upload a few photos, and post a listing.  But getting that listing found, making it look good, figuring out the extra details of navigating Etsy-world…that I needed help with.  Where did I turn?

Etsy teams.

Not only is Etsy a great marketplace, but it has a really fantastic community, too.  You can find a team for just about anything you can imagine, and if there isn’t one that fits what you’re look for, you can start your own!

The very first team I joined was Etsian Newbie, created especially for us newbies!  I learned a lot from that group.  We were all starting up and all had the same questions, so, when we asked them, there was always someone who had just figured out the answer, or, if not, someone who was willing to find it.

My very most favorite team was, and still is, my Etsy Maine Team.  Being from Maine, I wanted to connect with other Etsy folks who I might actually have the opportunity to meet in person.  We’ve got a great discussion thread where we just chat and get to know each other for real, and then there are other threads where we share resources and information with each other…like where the next craft fair is, or the inside scoop on a new boutique that’s opening up down town and is looking for vendors.  We even do a Secret Santa gift swap at Christmas!  These folks have become my Etsy family, a place where I can go and vent, or celebrate, or just plain ‘hang out’ with.

We’re also really great about giving each other’s new items lots of “love,” or giving each other the heads up when one of us finds out about a change coming to Etsy, or….you get the picture.  Support and community.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Etsy-world is a BIG place, and it can get pretty lonely and discouraging if you’re trying to go it alone.  Take the plunge, find a team that fits your needs, and jump in!  And don’t just be a bump on a log, or a fly on the wall, participate…join conversations, share your thoughts, encourage another seller who’s struggling.  Support your team, and they are sure to support you back!

Go, team, go!

Getting Found

Courtesy of Graphique

O.K., it’s not a roaring success…yet.  But it IS working!

Oh, I guess you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about.

Networking!

If you’ve been following me, you might remember last week when I wrote about making on-line connections with people who might be interested in my products.

And, as much as I hate homework, I’ve been doing it, and….it’s been working!

I don’t have any sales from the effort yet, but the fact that I’m getting folks to visit my shop and my blogs through connecting with them on other sites and blogs is really exciting!

I’ll share with you what I’ve been doing….just baby steps at this point, but definitely a good start.

First of all, the supplier who I get my metal purse frames from is a really big supporter of those of us who use her hardware.  So much so, that when she gets requests for clutches made from her frames, she refers the customer to a page of her blog that she has devoted to a list of bag makers who use her frames.

What did I do?  I contacted her and asked her to add my shop, which she kindly agreed to.  Within a day of my shop being listed on her page, I was receiving views from her site.

How simple was that!?

Another thing I’ve been doing is taking advantage of “link parties.”  A blogger will open up their page on a particular day and time and allow you to “share” a link to a blog, post, page, photo, or other media.  Your “share” shows up with a whole list of other “shares” and usually includes a picture.  There are usually some criteria you must follow for an allowable “share,” so be sure to play nice and follow the rules.  Oh, and return the favor by checking out some of the other “shares.”

I’ve connected with a few sites visited by people who like pretty, hand-crafted or sewn things.  Without fail, I see an increase to views within the day.  One of my favorites is Tea Rose Home.  She hasn’t done a link party in a little while, but when she did, I always got extra views.

And I know you’ve heard this before, but it really does make a difference….comment on other people’s blogs and be sure your avatar will lead folks back to you.  If you haven’t done it yet, visit Gravatar.com.  You can set up an avatar that’s compatible with tons of sites and includes a link to where people can find you.

So go on, get out there and make yourself know!  You do it every day when you’re out and about, smiling at someone, making eye contact, even exchanging a friendly greeting.  Doing it on line is even easier…at least you can’t see them if they look at you funny!  And the more you spread your presence through the internet, the more easily you’ll be found…and being found is what it’s all about.

 

What’s In a Name?

“A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet…”

But it sure wouldn’t be able to be found by an internet shopper!

Tags…those so-essential-but-bain-to-my-existence little words that get my shop and my items found by the all-mighty search engines…or, at least, that’s the hope anyway.

And since last summer when Etsy changed their search programming to be more shopper friendly, tags are even more important to us shop owners.

Case in point…

I recently listed an item that I made just like my pencil cases, but smaller and attached to a key chain.  Here’s a picture of it:

Cute, huh?

Anyway, because it was modeled after my pencil cases, I labeled it a “mini pencil case key chain,” and used tags like, case, mini pouch, utility pouch.

Well, theses little guys have been getting just about zero attention on Etsy, and I couldn’t figure out why.  I was talking to a friend about it the other day and she had these words of wisdom for me…

What were you thinking!?  Those aren’t pencil cases…you can’t fit a pencil in them!  Well, maybe a stub of a pencil, but even then…”

She was absolutely right!

I made the mistake of not looking at my product through the eyes of my customer.  I had in my head that this was a mini pencil case, so that’s what I called it.  A potential customer, looking for an item like this, would probably be searching for “coin purse,” or “key chain coin purse,” or even “key ring zipper pouch,” but definitely NOT “mini pencil case!”

So, I changed up my tags, relisted one of the newly named “zippered key chain coin purses,” and waited.

What do ya know?  It got some view!  Who would have guessed!?

Duhhh!

The moral of this story is...it’s not a bad idea to ask other people what they would call your items.  At very least, put your ‘customer’ hat on and think about what words you’d use if you wanted to find an item like yours.

Helpful hint:  If you start typing a word into the search box on Etsy, it will come up with a list of related and recently searched for phrases.  This is a great help because you can see what people have been finding when they type in the words you’re thinking of using as tags, giving you a better idea as to whether the word is a good tag for your item.

And now I’m off to make sure I haven’t been stupid with my other item tags!

Happy listing!